Utterly charming, intelligent and political, director Jafar Panahi has made a gorgeous film about life in modern Iran.
Using the device of being a taxi driver, he picks up various people and drives around the city, chatting with his passengers. The camera is always in the car. Panahi is usually driving, but glimpses of him just wandering around say a lot about Tehran.
I know very little about Panahi, although I love his movie “Offside” about girls trying to see a football match in Iran. I know he’s been banned from making movies in Iran and he has served time in prison and under house arrest, because of his films.
“Taxi Tehran”, also known as “Taxi”, pulls you in to the distinctive and humanist vision of Panahi. I will seek out his other films as my attention never strayed during my meetings with the extraordinary characters shown here.
As director, writer and star, Panahi acts as host and you feel that you are being driven around Tehran. It’s unusual to see such a pro-woman and pro-child point of view. Each scene is used as an opportunity to promote human rights.
Is the car acting as a metaphor for how the government represses artistic expression? Are the people here real, actors or acting as archetypes or symbols of the struggles of daily life in the city?
It doesn’t really matter although I’d love to discuss this with others who have seen the movie.
Stratford East Picturehouse showed this as part of its Discover Tuesdays programme. I love Discover Tuesdays as I get to see lots of quirky movies that don’t make it to mainstream release, but are worth seeing.
The subtitles let down the generally excellent standards here that allow viewers to follow the Persian-language words, at times. You can figure out that “loose” means “Lose”, but you’re sometimes scratching your head and looking for visual clues about what’s being said.
Do see “Taxi Tehran”, if you possibly can. It’s a breath of fresh air and utterly easy to love. It takes amazing bravery to make films when you’re banned from doing so. Panahi has great talent and his work deserves to be seen by all.